Toward the conclusion of spring training, several teams will face off in notable matchups outside of Florida and Arizona. While some of this year’s games include traditional end-of-spring contests between regional rivals, some will pit MLB teams against their affiliates, and others will take place in unique venues, including a former major league ballpark.
Our rundown of these games actually begins with two that will take place toward the middle of spring. The Texas Rangers are once again slated to play a pair of games at San Antonio’s Alamodome, with this year’s series against the Kansas City Royals taking place from March 18 and March 19. While this game gives the Rangers an opportunity to market themselves in their state’s second largest city, it also puts a spring training matchup in an interesting environment, as the Alamodome—which originally opened in 1993 as the home to the Alamo Bowl and the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs — offers a unique configuration.
Another mid-spring matchup of note will take place in Salt Lake City, as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim will head to Smith’s Ballpark on March 22 to take on the Salt Lake Bees (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League). Though they have been affiliated since 2001, this will mark the first time that the Bees face their parent club Angels. It is also the first time that Salt Lake City has hosted an v MLB squad since the Minnesota Twins came to town in 1999.
The Angels will not be the only parent club to face off against an affiliate. The Milwaukee Brewers will round out their spring slate with a trip to Mississippi on April 2 to take on the Biloxi Shuckers (Class AA; Southern League). For Biloxi, this is a fitting way to kick off what should be a big year, as the Shuckers will play their first full season at MGM Park, which opened in the middle of the 2015 campaign.
On March 31, the San Diego Padres will meet the El Paso Chihuahuas (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) at El Paso’s Southwestern University Park. El Paso opened its new downtown ballpark to much acclaim in 2014, but this will mark the city’s first visit from the Padres.
Another matchup to keep an eye on comes from the Philadelphia Phillies, who have announced a special exhibition in Reading on March 31. The game—which is being held, in part, to celebrate the Phillies’ 50 season affiliation with the Reading Figthin Phils (Class AA; Eastern League)—will pit the major league Phillies against some of their top prospects. Those in the Reading area might want to head back to FirstEnergy Stadium for another exhibition on April 5, when the Fightin Phils will square off against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Class AAA; International League).
The end of spring will also feature major league exhibitions at two minor league stadiums. Cashman Field in Las Vegas will play host to the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs on March 31 and April 1. This matchup is fitting for Las Vegas, not only because the Mets are the parent club of the Las Vegas 51’s (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), but the Cubs feature Las Vegas native and reigning National League Rookie of the Year winner Kris Bryant.
The Pittsburgh Pirates will conclude spring training in a game against the Cincinnati Reds on April 2, with the matchup taking place at Victory Field in Indianapolis. Pittsburgh has served as the parent club for the Indianapolis Indians (Class AAA; International League) since 2005, and news of their arrival was greeted was much enthusiasm. In November, the Indians said that tickets for the game sold out within 24 hours of its announcement.
Last but not least is a game that should once again garner much attention throughout the baseball world. For the third straight spring, the Toronto Blue Jays will play two exhibition games at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, this time facing off against the Boston Red Sox on April 1 and April 2.
The push to bring baseball back to Montreal has gathered some steam over the last few years, and in no small part due to the success of these games. In each of the past two springs, the pair of games played at Olympic Stadium combined to draw more than 96,000 fans. Though there does not look to be an immediate answer to the increasing support of replacing the Montreal Expos—who left for Washington after the 2004 season—the games put the city back into baseball’s spotlight for a few days, and only fuel the fire of baseball supporters in Montreal.